None of the gospels were written simply as Jesus’ biography. They were written so we would understand that salvation is offered by God through Jesus. Near the end of his gospel John says, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31) Therefore we know little or nothing about many periods of Jesus’ life. The stories of his birth are not extremely detailed, and we only have one brief story of Jesus as a youth. The comments 12-year old Jesus’ makes in the story Luke records in 2:41-52 challenge and call me to a deeper life with God.
In Luke’s scene we find the 12-year old Jesus still in Jerusalem while his parents returned home from their annual trip to the city. They were traveling with family, friends and others from their town. Jesus wasn’t with his parents as they started the journey, but they expected he was with someone else in their group. This tells me a couple interesting things. First, Jesus’ parents trusted him. I also gather from this story that his parents didn’t find this behavior out of the ordinary for their son. Even at 12 Jesus was not the loner many would have us imagine. I think he always enjoyed people.
Now back to the story. A day into the trip Jesus’ parents started wondering where he was since he hadn’t checked in with them. They asked their friends and family if Jesus was with them or if they had seen him. When this search failed Mary and Joseph retraced their steps to Jerusalem in search of their son. If you’re a parent you understand the anxiety that drove them as they searched for Jesus. They didn’t find him for three days. It would have taken them a day to return to Jerusalem, and that means they spent over a day looking for him in and around the city before they finally found him. Panic would have set in by this time for me. Luke tells us they were “astonished” when they finally found him in the temple.
Like the rest of us would, Jesus’ mother expressed their anxiety as soon as they found him and said, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48). Jesus said they should have known how to find him. Jesus’ next comment is the one that grabs me. Most English translations say either “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” as the NIV reads, or “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” as the NKJV reads. The passage doesn’t actually quote Jesus as using the word house or business in his reply. Translators added these in their attempt to help make sense of Jesus’ words. Jesus’ statement is much broader than either of these phrases. Jesus said something more like, “Didn’t you know it is necessary for me to be in the (fill in the blank) of my Father.” His answer has an article (the) with no noun. This means you can legitimately place anything in the blank, like: things, stuff, interests, activities, concerns, effort, or whatever else belongs to the Father. During this time all the aspects of the people’s life of faith was associated with the temple and that’s why his parents should have started there to look for him.
Today, Jesus works in his disciples to lead us away from the cares, concerns, priorities, (fill in the blank) of the ways of the world and sin. As he leads us away from the traps of sin and death he leads us in the way of life. As we focus on the (fill in the blank) of God we grow and experience life as God desires us to experience. We can’t successfully live on both side of this fence. Jesus models and explains this for us even as a 12-year old. This life is available to us today. You may have experienced brief glimpses of it, or you may live regularly in this focus on God.
This promise from God is not beyond our reach. We begin experiencing it by:
- Asking the Lord to develop this kind of focused life in us.
- Rejecting every temptation to entangle ourselves in the cares and concerns of the world and sin.
- Completely giving ourselves in every moment to a life focused on the Lord’s cares and concerns.
- Actively sharing life with others who are seeking the same life with and for God.
Our joyful freedom from the (fill in the blank) of the world and sin grows as we occupy ourselves with the (fill in the blank) of our Father.